Sunday, August 19, 2012

What's Goin' On?

On the radio the other day I learned that  thirty-eight soldiers killed themselves in July. A Greg Jaffe story in the Washington Post called July "the worst month for suicides since the Army began releasing figures in 2009, according to Pentagon officials."

This made me curious about military death rates in general in that faraway land. For some reason stats stick in my brain and 38 seems similar to the casualty rates overall in Afghanistan. A quick Google search brought me these numbers.*

Monthly U.S. death tolls in Afghanistan this year have been as follows.

—August 2012: 25

—July 2012: 40

—June 2012: 27

—May 2012: 39

—April 2012: 34

—March 2012: 18

—February 2012: 10

—January 2012: 25

In other words more soldiers died by suicide than by being shot or by helicopter crashes in six out of eight months this year. This never happened in World War II. There may have been suicides but certainly not at a rate comparable to casualties.

A blog post by retired Pakistani general Agha H. Amin now living in Kabul addresses this problem. The piece is titled, "Soldiers need conversion system to cope against suicidal tendencies."

The US soldier is brought up in an environment which is far different from Afghanistan... far superior in comforts and amenities. Afghanistan is a rude shock and a harsh change for the worst.

He is suddenly brought in a danger zone with little conversion training.The enemy is invisible and everywhere. He is not allowed hard drinks although he manages something . He is shackled in rules of engagement and also given a lot of nonsense about hearts and minds.He sees his colleagues going into depression and is normally operating in a role where he is most visible and easily targeted. 

The former general makes suggestions which may or may not help. What's certainly borne out here again is that war is hell, and this was has some especially hellish features. What's really going on? 
*Source: Casualties in Afghanistan

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